Growing up, taking a catch in a cricket match, or jumping rope—or tying your shoelaces—wasn’t a big deal. At least for some of us. There is more complexity to these actions than any one of us gave any thought to, then.
The reason some people are so seemingly dexterous in their movements is because of ‘proprioception’. It is what allows us to make coordinated movements, through neurons that sense both the static and dynamic positions of body parts, as described by a study in the National Library of Medicine. A research in Science Direct calls it “The sense that lets us perceive the location, movement, and action of parts of the body”.
Those not so adroit, fret not. Turns out, dancing may just be your saviour. Research has established that dance—among the many benefits it carries—can also bolster proprioception.
The role of dance
The neuroscience journal, Grey Matters, calls proprioception “our sixth sense”, that “kicks into gear without any conscious thought from us”. The journal states that dance training can improve proprioceptive abilities—and is “one of the fundamental reasons why dancers are able to flawlessly execute complex balance movements on a very small base of support…”
Interestingly, proprioception is also hugely responsible for a person’s coordination—any infirmity to which can drastically hamper one’s efficiency and quality of life. However, there are coordination exercises that can aid.
Again, dance is one of them.
Why is coordination critical
Physiopedia, a UK-based health NGO, calls coordination the “ability to select the right muscle at the right time, with proper intensity, to achieve proper action”. Needless to say, coordination is needed not just to perform complex activities, but for the simplest of movements on the daily, too.
Improving one’s coordination can immensely benefit the day-to-day functioning of the body. It makes tasks easier to accomplish, helps improve one’s performance, and boosts self-confidence. Coordination is also critical for one’s physical fitness.
Types of coordination
The human body has three types of coordination:
- Fine motor: This is the ability to sync muscles, bones, and nerves, to produce small, exact movements, as per MedlinePlus, part of National Institutes of Health (NIH). Physiopedia adds it includes ‘manipulative’ movements like writing, drawing, buttoning a shirt, etc.
- Gross motor: The opposite of fine motor control, this is large, general motor control, like waving an arm in greeting, as per NIH. It requires coordinated movement of large muscles, like the trunk, arms, and legs, to perform daily movements such as walking, standing, running, and jumping.
- Hand-eye skills: This is, basically, a perceptual-motor skill, wherein your eyes guide your hands to complete the movement. It includes catching a ball, sewing, etc.
Causes of Coordination Impairment
There are various reasons why one can have poor muscle control, leading to uncoordinated or clumsy voluntary movements. This condition is medically known as ataxia. According to Mayo Clinic, many factors can cause ataxia, like:
- Alcohol misuse
- Certain medications
- Genetic disorders.
How does dance help with coordination:
Dance, elementally, does the deed by teaching you to use your mind and body in unison, to produce in-sync steps. In doing do, it ‘cultivates’ coordination in you, in other spheres of life, too. A study by American Psychological Society found that ballet training, for instance, improved coordination for everyday activities as well. Those who performed ballet also had better balance and used their muscles more effectively.
With this, dance additionally assists in your:
- Balance: Not just dynamic balance, performing dance regularly can boost one’s static balance, too. Another study associated long-term social dancing with better balance and gait in older adults also.
- Motor-skills: Dance activates the brain’s sensory and motor circuits. In fact, due to its beneficial effects, dance is now also being used to treat various degenerative conditions associated with motor symptoms, like Parkinson’s.